Pond plants

by Kate Bradbury

Be Plant Wise, a government campaign to halt the spread of non-native, invasive pond plant species in our ponds, streams and rivers, was launched this week.

Blue flowers of the water forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioidesBe Plant Wise, a government campaign to halt the spread of non-native, invasive pond plant species in our ponds, streams and rivers, was launched this week.

The five key culprits listed on the Be Plant Wise website are: floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides) parrot's feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), New Zealand pigmyweed or Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii), water primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora) and water fern, (Azolla filiculoides). If left unchecked, these non-native plants can take over our ponds and deoxygenate the water. If dumped in municipal or wild ponds, streams or rivers they can smother native plants, clog waterways, exacerbate flooding and harm fish. The website gives clear advice on identifying the offending plants and what to do if you have them growing in your pond (remove and compost them, basically).

Great. But what should we plant in our ponds to replace the offenders? My blog on dead frogs highlighted the need for oxygenating plants to maintain oxygen levels in the water so frogs and other wildlife can still breathe when the pond is frozen over. But there are so many plants to choose from, and - as Horticulture Week pointed out - to date many aquatic plant suppliers are still selling invasive, non-native pond plants. Is anyone else confused?

My pond sits under a north-facing wall and is less than 1m squared in size. It has no edges as such, and sits above ground. It currently contains water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpiodes) and some rampant watercress I bought from the supermarket for 75p. I'd like to add more plants, and buy some plants for my mother (her pond is a disgrace, it's full of dead slugs). Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) is lovely, native to Britain and has beautiful yellow flowers in spring. But it's suited to larger ponds. There's water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) and frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae), which are both adorable and suitable for growing in part-shade. The Postcode Plants Database also recommends water-violet (Hottonia palustris) and yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) for my area.

This is all very well, but my local garden centre staff laughed at me when I asked if they sold pond plants. People in London don't have ponds, apparently, which is probably why my rescue frogs were living in a drain. I have a pond, I have frogs, and I want to care for them. Habitat Aid offers a great selection of native pond plants online - including marginals and water lilies  - and half of profits are donated to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. But my pond is so tiny the collection might be too big for it. Good job it's nearly Mother's Day, then.

So what should you do? First, visit The Postcode Plants Database and enter your postcode. It should present you with a list of suitable aquatic plants to grow in your area (unless you live in a desert). You can click on each plant to see a picture and find out if it's 'garden worthy'. Second, look the plant up on plantlife.org.uk to check that it's suitable for your pond (small, shady etc). Then, either take a list of plants you want to buy to a specialist nursery or garden centre, and make sure what you're buying is native, non-invasive, and sourced in a sustainable fashion, or try one of the following suppliers:

Beaver Water Plants

Gower Wildflowers

Habitat Aid

Puddle Plants

Stapeley Water Gardens

Wildlife Services

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Pond plants
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Gardeners' World Web User 26/02/2010 at 17:04

Watercress? In your pond?! What a good idea. I need something to cover the surface. The algae is out of control. I'm going to have a look at the plant database.

Gardeners' World Web User 26/02/2010 at 18:24

I'm not sure about the postcode database - it lists Mares-tail for my area. I know it doesn't say that it is garden worthy - but who on earth would want to introduce that to their garden ??? Thank god it doesn't seem to list himalayan balsam - a beautiful plant, but a major problem in waterways here in the New Forest.

Gardeners' World Web User 26/02/2010 at 21:00

I know Barhi the postcode database listed mare's tail as native to my area too. I guess they just have to include all species. Glad it's not garden worthy though. And yes GillHGardener, the watercress works really well. It's really spicy, much more so than shop-bought stuff. Hardy too - survived through the weeks of ice and snow and is thriving! Will probably end up on the list of invasive species at this rate!

Gardeners' World Web User 26/02/2010 at 21:04

The database isn't recommending what to introduce: it's simply showing what is native to the area. Marestail may be pure prehistoric evil in plant form, but it is native.

Gardeners' World Web User 26/02/2010 at 22:15

hi i have a very small pond[3ft wide] in shade,i do have lots of frogs & newts in it.i would love some pond plants but i dont know what sort of pond plants to put in there.when i ask at garden centre im greeted with mmmm not sure..[i would like something with flowers on it..] also katie did you find out anything out about the palmate newts in my blog ie are they protected........

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